Politically Speaking: The importance of strong health systems – locally, nationally and globally

Politically Speaking - Staffordshire Newsletter 29/09/16

The University Hospital of the North Midlands Trust (UHNM) which runs County Hospital has said that they intend to introduce a Minor Injuries Unit for children in the second half of October. This follows the temporary closure of the Children's Emergency Centre (CEC) last month. From what I understand, around 80pc of the cases which would have been seen by the CEC could be treated by this unit.

The Trust also said that it is continuing the work with the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health to establish how fully to reopen the CEC in accordance with the revised safety standards.

It is vital that these services are restored and I look forward to the proposals to do this.

On 14th September, I spoke in Parliament both about the CEC and long-term funding for our NHS. While there is always room for improvement and efficiencies, it seems to me that the UK needs over the next few years to increase the proportion of national income which we commit to health and social care by at least 2pc of Gross Domestic Product (c£38 billion pa). This will have to be dedicated funding so that people are sure that the extra money really is going to health and social care. My suggestion is that we do this through strengthening the National Insurance system. I will continue to work in Parliament with MPs of other parties to develop the proposals and make the case publicly.

I have just returned from leading a team of volunteers to Sierra Leone where we assisted with legal and enterprise training. I met the Health Minister to discuss the progress after Ebola. In particular, we spoke about the work to strengthen their health system to tackle problems such as the tragically high rates of death of mothers in childbirth. We also discussed with the Minister for Youth Affairs practical ways to increase work opportunities for the high number of unemployed young people - vital as the lack of such opportunities is a cause of poverty and migration.

It was good to see people optimistic and active again after the scourge of Ebola, which effectively shut the country down for several months. We heard of the tremendous courage of doctors, nurses and other health workers, 224 of whom died while caring for the sick. For reference, Sierra Leone has fewer than 300 doctors for a population of 7 million.

The support given to the people of Sierra Leone throughout the epidemic and since by the British people was greatly appreciated. I was told, for instance, that the sight of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus docked in Freetown harbour, with her 350 UK sailors, soldiers and aircrew, and Merlin helicopters in constant operation was a visible reminder that the world had not forgotten the country in its time of need.